By Madisen Carter
The New York Liberty clinched the final spot in the 2021 WNBA Playoffs on Sunday. With losses from both the Washington Mystics and the Los Angeles Sparks, the Liberty were able to secure the No. 8 seed and will now face the No. 5 seed, Phoenix Mercury, in the first round of the playoffs on Thursday.
The New York Liberty finished the regular season with a record of 12-20. This is the first time since 2017 that the Liberty made the playoffs. The ladies are ready for the opportunity, along with the first overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, Sabrina Ionescu.
Ionescu has had a memorable second regular season after returning off of an ankle sprain injury from last season that limited her to play only three games. In those three games, Ionescu was able to rack up 55 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists. In her second game ever played with the Liberty she sank in six three-pointers, which was the most ever made by a true rookie in Liberty franchise history.
This season, Ionescu played in 30 regular season games, and she started in 26 of them. In the 30 games she played, Ionescu averaged 11.7 points, 6.1 assists and 5.7 rebounds. In her first regular season game back, Ionescu dropped 25 points and hit the game winner with 0.4 seconds remaining on the clock to give the Liberty their first win of the season against the Indiana Fever with a score of 90-87.
Throughout the season, Ionescu had 20 games with points scored in the double-digits, with four 20-point or more games. Her best game of the season was on May 18th against the Minnesota Lynx when she became the youngest player and the first player in Liberty franchise history to attain a triple-double. She had a total of 26 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
“Obviously getting a triple-double and a win is what’s important. If I got that and a loss it wouldn’t mean anything to me,” said Ionescu in a post-game interview. “Super just proud of my teammates for, you know, helping me get that, my coaching staff. You know, those things never are easy and they never come without help from everyone else on the court. So I’m just super thankful to have teammates around me and to be surrounded by such great players.”
Ionescu had a notable finish to the regular season when she put up 22 points to secure the win over the Washington Mystics, snapping the Liberty’s eight game losing streak. She finished the regular season with a total of 352 points, 183 assists and 171 blocks.
Ionescu also made big moves off of the court this year. She signed a deal with State Farm and starred in State Farm commercials with Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul. In June, Ionescu partnered with the sports business network Boardroom. She also partnered with Nike and HomeCourtAi to have an app that allows fans to virtually play Ionescu one on one.
Ionescu has had a successful year and it is not over yet. The New York Liberty and Ionescu will travel to Phoenix, Arizona and play the Phoenix Mercury at Grand Canyon Arena on Thursday. Tip off is set at 7 p.m. PST.